SEPTEMBER 26-27, 2003 1-2 TISHREI 5763
"Yom Kippur does not atone for transgressions between man and man unless one first appeases his friend" (Yoma 8:9)
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, our hearts are open to the concept of teshubah, which is repenting and returning to Hashem. If we repent, the day of Yom Kippur is a day when we are forgiven by Hashem and we become pure. The sins that we do between us and Hashem require teshubah only. The sins that we do to our fellow man are a little different. When we sin to our friend, we also sin to Hashem for, after all, every Jew is a child of Hashem. Hashem tells us that before you ask me for forgiveness on these sins, you must ask your friend for forgiveness first.
Clearly, we are halachically obligated to apologize whenever we have hurt someone in any way, and the ones we are most likely to hurt are the ones with whom we live - our spouses. Therefore, teshubah for sins between man and man "begin at home." Another likely area is in the business world. How does one appease someone? Why are some apologies accepted allowing people to move on, while other apologies tend to provoke even more hostility? Dr. Meir Wikler, a psychotherapist and family counselor, writes in an article on marriage that there are three most important words in marriage. What are they? The first word is "I" but the third word is not "you." The three most important words in marriage are "I was wrong." Your spouse's acceptance depends, in large measure, on how well you apologize. A successful apology will clear the air, diffuse angry feelings and sooth the injury. A failed attempt, on the other hand, will generate more pain, disappointment and resentment. The doctor's advise is clearly applicable also to one's business associates and one's customers.
I looked up the word "apology" in the dictionary and two definitions were given: 1. Something spoken in defense. 2. Expression of regret at an offense. The first definition may water down your apology. Dr. Wikler writes, "don't end your apology with 'but...'" A long list of excuses - valid as they may be - might severely weaken your apology. After a correct apology is given, you are ready to say you are sorry and ask for a pardon for your wrongdoing.
If we have wronged people, we need to come to the realization that we were wrong, and should say so. After this is said, we hope Hashem forgives us as well. May we all be written in the Book of Life, Amen.
Tizku l'shanim rabot! Rabbi Reuven Semah
As this past year comes to a close, we stop and reflect on how much good and bad news has been publicized both in this bulletin and in the regular newspapers. We know that it has been a very tough year for our brothers in Israel and in our midst. We saw and heard many sad things. But we should not forget how many happy occasions we were privileged to be part of, and even just to hear about! Hashem, Who is our Father, wants only the best for us, and wants to shower us with all great things. Sometimes we are the ones not able to receive them because we lack the merit, and so we are the ones who need to change for this coming year.
The mere fact that another year is passing us by, how time is flying so quickly, is enough to prod us and awaken us to the fact that we must use our time wisely. Let this year be the one that we commit to do those things that we always say we will do. Let us appreciate all the good Hashem gives us constantly, and pray sincerely for a Healthy and Happy year for everyone in our family, in our community and in our nation.
Tizku L'shanim Rabot! Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"You also remembered Noah with love...when You brought the waters of the flood...because of the wickedness of their deeds" (Amidah of Musaf Rosh Hashanah)
Why do we base our plea on Noah? Can't we find any other Jewish sadikim? Noah is referred to as a sadik bedorotav - righteous in his generation. Some explain that this means, in comparison to his contemporaries he was righteous, but had he lived in Abraham's generation he would be naught (Beresheet 6:9, Rashi).
In our prayer we are saying, "You remembered Noah with love when You brought the flood." Though he, too, should have drowned, You separated him because You took into consideration the "wickedness of their deeds," and when he is measured against them, the people of his generation, he is a sadik. Likewise, measure us against the people of the world we live amongst, and regardless how we may have failed You, in comparison to them we are sadikim and are worthy to be lovingly remembered by You. (Vedibarta Bam)
In six days Hashem created the heavens, earth and its inhabitants. According to the Sages, creation commenced on the 25th day of Elul and six days later, Adam, the first man, was created.
Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of Adam, the first man, and the ancestor of humanity. Accordingly, this singular anniversary was designated to serve as the perennial day of judgment for Adam's descendants throughout the generations. On this day it is incumbent upon Adam's children to reflect and contemplate whether man, as he evolved through history, has justified the hopes and aspirations of his Creator.
One of the main distinguishing features in the creation of man is that, unlike all other species, which were created in large numbers, he was created single. This indicates emphatically that one single individual has the capacity to bring the whole of creation to fulfillment. Adam, following his creation, single-handedly rallied all creatures in the world to recognize the sovereignty of the Creator. When Adam was created, all creatures who saw him were gripped with fear and bowed to him in mistaken belief that he, Adam, had created them. Adam said to them, "Do not think I created you. Come, let us worship and bow down before Hashem our Maker" (Tehillim 95:6).
Adam, the first man, was the prototype and example for every individual to follow. Every Jew, regardless of the time, the place and his personal status, has the capacity to rise and attain the highest degree of fulfillment and to elevate the entire creation.
Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of the first human, disproves the contention of those who sit idle and follow the tide with the excuse that it is impossible for one person to change the world or pattern of society. Many of us give up when it comes to introducing more Judaism into our neighborhood, in our children's homes, or even in our own lives. Perhaps we feel that there is no chance to add more Judaism to the curriculum of our children's schools and therefore we do nothing. We do this saying, "It is a lost case, nothing can be done about it."
The message of Rosh Hashanah is that each and every Jew has tremendous potential, and with sincere efforts he can improve and elevate himself, his family, society and even the entire world. (Vedibarta Bam)
GIVING CHARITY PUSHES AWAY EVIL HAPPENINGS THAT ARE DECREED UPON A PERSON...AND, WHAT IS MORE, IT ADDS LENGTH OF DAYS TO A PERSON'S LIFE. (Shulhan Aruch Y.D. 247:4)
Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of Adam, the first man. The Torah does not record what he did on his first day except for the account of how Hashem took him and placed him in Gan Eden to work it and guard it, with explicit instructions not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.
The Torah relates (Beresheet 3:1-8) that Adam and his wife Havah were both naked, and they were not ashamed. When they violated Hashem's command and ate from the Tree of Knowledge, their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked, so they sewed together fig leaves and they made themselves aprons. Suddenly, they heard the voice of Hashem and they hid. Hashem called out to the man and said to him, "Ayekah - Where are you?" He replied, "I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid."
This seemingly simple story is very enigmatic. While at times a person may allow himself to lie to his friend, no one would have the audacity to lie to Hashem face to face! As you will recall, a moment ago we mentioned that when they realized they were naked they made themselves aprons. Now Hashem is talking to Adam, who is dressed in his apron, and he tells Hashem, "I hid because I was naked"?!
Man has been sent to this mundane and earthly world to "work it and guard it." It is incumbent upon him to study Torah and perform misvot and conduct his life in accordance with Torah instructions. For this he will ultimately merit a respected place in Gan Eden.
While some are faithful to their mission, unfortunately there are those who get sidetracked. The glitter of success blinds them into thinking that "I am a self-made man, a secure individual and have everything that is needed to assure myself the very best." Little by little man forgets about his dependence on Hashem and begins to make for himself "garments" - security blankets which he is sure will protect him.
This is all good until one day he is awakened from his slumber by a kol Hashem - the voice of Hashem. Suddenly, G-d forbid, he is taken to the hospital with a cardiac arrest or another serious ailment. Sometimes a catastrophe in his business shatters the entire security on which he confidently relied. At times it may be a tragedy in his family which casts him into gloom and despair. All these are the different forms of "kol Hashem - the voice of Hashem" calling man, "Ayekah - where are you?" - wake up. At that time man realizes his nakedness without Hashem. Everything he thought he had, all that he built and amassed, is really nil.
This is what occurred with Adam. Living in Gan Eden and having everything available at his disposal, he "opened his eyes" and thought that he was secure and successful. Now he could do whatever he wanted, he thought, and not fear. When suddenly he heard a "call from Hashem" he came to the realization how insignificant and "naked" he really was.
Hopefully, no one should ever, G-d forbid, get a "call from heaven" to awaken him. May the call of the shofar of Rosh Hashanah be sufficient to bring us out of our slumber. Let us resolve on this day, happy, healthy and in good spirit, to direct our lives according to the will of Hashem.
Teshubah, repentance, seems illogical. True, a sinner must change his ways to avoid further punishment. Yet by what logic can a previous sin be forgiven? Why shouldn't he be punished for the bad he has done?
One might answer that Hashem wipes away our sins because He is all-merciful. This answer, however, doesn't stand up to scrutiny. For, consider the fact that a person can also erase his good deeds if he sincerely regrets them. As Rambam states: "Whoever regrets the misvot he has fulfilled...and says to himself: 'What did I get out of doing them? I wish I hadn't done them,' loses all of them, and no merit is remembered in his favor." (Hilchot Teshubah 3:3)
The Rambam's insight shows that Hashem's "forgetting" our past is not merely a question of His mercy, for the concept can work against us as well. How, then, does teshubah work?
When G-d judges a person, He doesn't simply weigh his sins and misvot on a scale. Rather, Hashem judges the individual himself. What is he? What does he represent? Does he embody good or evil?
True, a person's essential being depends on his past actions; but he is actually judged for the essence of his being, the whole and not the parts. When a person truly regrets his past, he is stating that those actions do not embody him. When being judged for what he represents, those sins that he regrets - or those misvot - are not factors in judgment, since they do not represent him anymore.
This understanding is apparent in the following statement of the Rambam: "When a person's sins and merits are weighed, the first sin that he sinned is not counted, nor the second. But the third and on [are counted]. If it is found that his sins - from the third and on - are greater than his merits, then the [first] two sins are included and he is punished for them all." (Hilchot Teshubah 3:5)
Why should Hashem "ignore" the first two sins? Bearing in mind our explanation of teshubah, the reason is quite clear: It is a principle of Jewish law that for an action to establish a status quo (hazakah), it must occur three times. Thus, the first two times a person sins, he had not indicated that he is a person who embodies that particular transgression. He simply gave in to his evil inclination. Only when he transgresses three times can one say that he represents the sin itself, and can thus be judged for his embodiment of the evil, not for one particular sin.
Among the ways to repentance, the Rambam mentions changing one's name, "as if to say: I am another, and am not the same person who did those deeds." (Rambam, Hilchot Teshubah 2:4)
How can one change his name and claim to be someone else? According to our explanation, this is exactly the point of teshubah. One must resolve that those moments spent in sin do not represent him. He is a different person, represented by misvot. (Rabbi Michoel Schoen - Ohr Somayach Institutions)
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